Explore The Luxurious Side of Hyderabad

A couple of hundred years ago, a palace could belong only to royalty. Cut to the present, and money can buy you what once only belonged to the blue-blooded. Luxury has started to become more commonplace than ever before. When I first went to the (erstwhile) princely city of Hyderabad, I explored a number of its heritage sites. I did not dwell too much on their splendour then, as I was often distracted by how simple the common man was in this twin-capital (of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh). A few more trips (and almost half a decade) later, I would see a new side of Hyderabad…

Charminar’s Oft Overlooked Charm

I look up at the old city from Charminar's intricately done gate.

I look up at the old city from Charminar’s intricately done gate.

I had first clambered up the steep spiral steps of one of the four claustrophobic minarets of the Charminar in 2012 (read: Say ‘Hi’ to Hyderabad) when I was flush with the new money from my first cushy job. Not so much of a travel blogger then, I was more interested in having my pictures clicked from the viewing deck of this 16th-century mosque. It is now, after I’ve grown older (and hopefully, gained some maturity), that I wonder how much time the masons must have spent carving each window, each grill and each gate. I can now admire the intricacies of Mughal architecture. Despite the dull exterior of this neglected icon, I can imagine how centuries ago, this structure must have been an opulent place to pray.

Salar Jung’s Museum (Of Riches And Rapture)

Spotted at the Salar Jung Museum: gold rimmed wine glasses from Czechia - Is this what luxury is all about?

Spotted at the Salar Jung Museum: gold rimmed wine glasses from Czechia – Is this what luxury is all about?

Can a man be so enamoured with materialism to spend thirty-five years of his life collecting expensive trinkets from around the world? The Salar Jung Museum by the Musi River answered my question with a resounding “YES!” One of India’s only three National Museums, this house of art exhibits a baffling collection of paintings, sculptures, antique crockery, furniture, currency notes and coins, carpets, and just about anything you can imagine. Prime Minister to the 7th Nizam of Hyderabad, Salar Jung III gave most of his life to the pursuit of princely possessions. Undoubtedly a man of refined taste, he managed to own some artefacts that date back to the 1st-century!

Chowmahalla’s Enchantment

Chandeliers sparkle inside one of the grand halls of the Chowmahalla Palace.

Chandeliers sparkle inside one of the grand halls of the Chowmahalla Palace.

If you don’t get enough of luxury from a museum, there is a grand palace ready to floor you! Not far from Charminar, the Chowmahalla Palace is the 19th-century mansion that has served as the seat of power for two dynasties. The shimmering interiors of this grand palace are a testimony to how well it is kept even today. When you are in here, don’t forget to look up at the roof to marvel at the work on the ceilings.

The Grandeur Of Golconda

I pass through a tunnel as I explore the labyrinthine Golconda Fort.

I pass through a tunnel as I explore the labyrinthine Golconda Fort.

Sometimes, luxury lies outdoors. The outdoorsy part of me loves to hike and explore ruins that stretch far and wide. For those who get their high from climbing steps and gazing at panoramic views from beautiful vantage points, Golconda Fort makes for a perfect day-long getaway. Just 10km from Hyderabad, this citadel has enough to keep you (and your kids) occupied! Lose your way through its myriad tunnels or pose for your next Whatsapp display-pic from one of its viewing decks (which once upon a time, was used to keep an eye out for enemies and to fire cannonballs at any attacking army).

Revel By A River

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam - It takes a mighty structure to stop a river as mighty as The Krishna.

Nagarjuna Sagar Dam – It takes a mighty structure to stop a river as mighty as The Krishna.

The River Krishna is so powerful that during monsoons, it can cause flooding. To rein in this river’s power, use its water for irrigation and harness some energy to produce electricity, the Nagarjuna Dam was built across it. When all of the 26 gates of this dam are left open, the sight is one to watch! Interestingly, this dam also happens to be the second largest reservoir in the country (in terms of storage capacity). The water-starved stones (which never quite get to be the river-washed round pebbles) also make for a nice, crunchy walk during sunset.

Soak Up Some Stardust At A Film City

Aerial view of Ramoji Film City - where London, Paris and New York are side-by-side.

Aerial view of Ramoji Film City – where London, Paris and New York are side-by-side.

If the real world doesn’t excite you much, there’s an entire city of make-believe structures in glamorous guise. I’m talking about Ramoji Film City (read: RFC- A City Hidden in a Village). A little distance from Hyderabad, this village is where a lot of movies are shot. The place is replete with stunt-props and sets ready to be torn apart and rejoined in no time. You can fake scenes from Japan to as far as France in this little land of movie-fanatics.

Is There A Price For Peace?

Does the pristine white marble of the Birla Temple offer the ever-elusive tranquillity?

Does the pristine white marble of the Birla Temple offer the ever-elusive tranquillity?

Birla Temples across India are among the most expensive ones, mostly because of the generous use of fine marble and their ornate columns and domes. I do not believe in idol worship, but I like to take in the architectural finesse of such places. If you find the streets too busy, you can always drop in (albeit before 5 pm) and find your quiet space on the cool marble floors (or the garden behind). Sometimes, these little things carry more value than all the goods in a luxury store.

Stay Like Royalty – At The Taj

The palatial exterior of Taj Krishna seduces one's senses into submission. (Courtesy: Taj Krishna, Hyderabad)

The palatial exterior of Taj Krishna seduces one’s senses into submission. (Courtesy: Taj Krishna Hyderabad)

Where you stay on your trip makes a lot of difference to how you view a city. If you are serious about discovering the luxurious side of the city of Nizams, you should book yourself into a 5-star property, such as the Taj Krishna Hyderabad. Spread out like a palace of its own, this hotel is located in the upscale locale of Banjara Hills. After you have seen the richness of the city, sink in the riches of your own suite!

Make Your Moments Count

Precious moments are those that are shared with a loved one over a meal.

Precious moments are those that are shared with a loved one over a meal.

No matter how much wealth you have, you will be alone without somebody to love. If you do have a partner, make it a priority to travel with her/him. You will not regret the extra spend when you share a sweet evening by the Hussain Sagar Lake (read: All Roads lead to Hyderabad), holding your precious one’s hand as you polish off the eat-street’s munchies.

Let Your Food Reflect Your Lavish Taste

The glittering Firdaus Restaurant (Courtesy: Taj Krishna, Hyderabad)

The glittering Firdaus Restaurant (Courtesy: Taj Krishna Hyderabad)

A trip achieves its completion only when the local cuisine reaches your taste buds. Hyderabad is famous for its Mughlai cuisine, especially its biryani (which is very distinct from the ones in Lucknow or Bengal). The biryani at Paradise is overrated in my opinion. If you look deeper, you will discover other places for that authentic taste (and other Hyderabadi delicacies). On your luxury getaway, reserve a table at Firdaus, the Nizami restaurant at the Taj Krishna Hyderabad.

Have you seen Hyderabad any differently?

Do you enjoy a dash of luxury on your trips?

Let me know in the comments below! 🙂

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All Roads lead to Hyderabad

I finished a much awaited trip to Hyderabad earlier this week. And this time, my experiences beautifully complemented the ones I’ve had on my previous visits to the city of pearls.

Hyderabad as viewed from the heavens above

Hyderabad as viewed from the heavens above

My Friday morning began with a drive to Golkonda Fort, a good 15 kilometres from where I stayed. Golkonda means shepherd’s hill, and rightly so, for the highest point of this citadel requires the strength of a shepherd to scale! This ancient castle was built in the 13th century and has an intelligent acoustic system which it is famed for. What now remain are the ruins of white granite that cast a spell on all tourists that walk on these lands. The complex has landscaped gardens and multilevel arches that adorn the walkways and lead to the base of the ‘stairway to heaven’. And this ‘heaven’ is astonishingly a prison – Ramadas Bandikhana, which is now considered sacred due to the unlawful imprisonment of a loyal Lord-Ram-devotee. A visit to Golconda Fort is highly recommended for the breathtaking views that every yard on the 380-step climb lends the visitor. This heritage site is well maintained and has food-stalls and rest-rooms at strategic locations in the caves. The place is almost romantic with the chipped walls, greens peeping out of stones, and beryl skies playing hide-and-seek behind the white clouds.

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Saturday afternoon saw me waiting under overarching branches of trees outside the Salar Jung Museum as my travel-companion parked the car. This 38-gallery art museum has over a million objects from Far East to North America, and is the world’s largest collection of antiques by a single person. The building showcases artefacts like paintings, carpets, sculptures, arms, apparel, crockery, manuscripts and furniture that Nawab Salar Jung III zealously invested in.

Hot Tip: Time your visit such that you can hear the central grandfather clock chime at the stroke of a new hour.

Nightlife and Dining options in Hyderabad:-

(This list is in addition to the eateries I’ve mentioned in my first Hyderabad-post.)

  • The night I arrived in this city, I had the buffet at The Square, Novotel (near the airport). The food wasn’t much to boast about and the couple of drinks we ordered took our bill to almost 7000 INR. But this is a nice place if you’re bored of the airport-food-court and are starving after your flight.
  • Chutneys is a pocket-friendly restaurant specializing in South Indian cuisines. We ordered guntur idlis (very spicy) and palak paneer dosa, and were served an assortment of 6 exotic chutneys (both coconut based and coconut-free) complimentary!
  • Staying in a southern city doesn’t mean you only have to eat South Indian delicacies. Dil Punjabi proves this with flavours of Punjab. We had ordered veg and chicken soups, hara-bhara kebabs for starters, a roti-basket of Amritsari kulchas, naans and tandoori rotis with a paneer dish (large cubes of paneer) and some chicken preparations (for my non-vegetarian friends) for mains. The food was finger-licking good and the portion sizes, befitting a Punjabi eatery! The restaurant closes in the late afternoon, but if you can persuade the maître d’hôtel, you’ll be allowed to order from limited sections of the menu and enjoy a quiet lunch.
  • Hyderabad is mostly a conservative city and has numbered discs, but the party-scene is gradually picking up. I spent my Saturday night at Hard Rock Cafe as the outlet celebrated its 4th anniversary. A large part of the restaurant and bar area was converted to a dance floor and they played some pop and rock chartbusters.

Hot Tip: Ensure you ‘check-in’ on Foursquare if your bill goes over 1500 INR, for a complimentary tequila shot! 🙂

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Insights from an Insider:-

(This is an exclusive interview with a local Hyderabadi)

Praveen in his Deccan Chargers jersey

Praveen in his Deccan Chargers jersey

Me: How long have you lived in Hyderabad?

Praveen: 20 years

Me: Your favourite thing about this city…

Praveen: Our unique language… ‘Hyderabadi Hindi’. You will only hear it in Hyderabad!

Me: Teach me a phrase in Telugu.

Praveen:  ‘garu’ – giving respect to a person. E.g., Oindrila-garu

Me: When does the city go to sleep?

Praveen: Though Hyderabad is one of the thriving Indian cities, the mindset of the people here is still very traditional. You will notice that a typical Telugu girl still prefers to wear traditional dresses over Western. Likewise, the nightlife here is pretty dormant.

Me: One thing nobody must miss doing here…

Praveen: One should visit all heritage locations like Chowhmalla Palace, Chudi-bazaar, Charminar, Golconda, Taramati Baradari and agar aap hyderabad mein hai toh aapko ek bar toh hyderabadi biryani khaani ‘padingi’ ! (a-la-Hyderabadi Hindi) [Now, that you’re in Hyderabad, you must have Hyderabadi biriyani atleast once!]